When an office space at Nine Exe in central Southernhay became vacant, Deborah Clark offered it as a residency to artist Sarah Taylor. Here Deborah talks to Sarah about the creative journey and how, after a 40-year break to raise a family of four, Sarah has found her path.
DC: You’re (almost) my age, how does it feel to switch horses so radically and with such full-on implications at 56?
ST: I’ve been on a slow burn over the past ten years, attending evening classes and workshops in life drawing and portraiture which are the back bone to my practice. I think taking myself seriously as an artist and doing a fine art degree at Glasgow is a natural part of my process to date. It feels really positive and in the moment; this part of my life has been on hold for a long time and now my voice is finally beginning to be heard.
DC: Were you always sure that visual creation was your end goal?
ST: In the early days it was a hobby. It wasn’t until I visited the University Expo at West point in Exeter with one of my children – for their career choices – that I realised that there were so many opportunities available to me as well. It was Goldsmiths who suggested that I do an access course in art and design.
DC: And how did you get to today: what were the stepping stones?
ST: I applied to Exeter College in 2017 to do an Access course in Art and Design. I had planned to do an Art Foundation course when I left school but didn’t as we moved to Devon. So the Access course was returning to something I had wanted to do for 40 years. It was a huge learning curve but the most exhilarating challenge, not only in subject matter but to be part of an energetic environment – and it was fun! Following on, I did an Art Foundation over a two year period in Totnes. I then had to decide whether to take it further – so I applied to Glasgow School of Art just to see! I was accepted and have just completed my Year 2 of the 4 year degree course.
DC: You must have been working remotely with GSA for the past year. How has that been? Are there positives to it?
ST: Yes, I do feel that I have missed out on that exchange of ideas and stimulus you get from working together in a studio and of course all lectures were online and doing a practical subject is tricky via zoom although not impossible! Positives? Absolutely; my fellow students have been fantastic at supporting each other. I have also learnt how to present my work online which will be useful. Worldwide covid has meant that there are more creative events online and so there’s connection with a wonderfully diverse network of artists.
DC: What exactly does a residency mean? What do you hope to get out of it?
ST: A residency allows an artist to work in a different and often unconventional space – which allows them to explore different ideas and experiment with new materials. I wanted to challenge myself as I had never had this sort of opportunity before and I was intrigued to see what would happen. I didn’t really have a plan as I like the serendipity of how my work develops with constraints.
DC: Did our building work for you? It’s not a garret or a clean white cube…
ST: Definitely. I have a small studio at home and Nine Exe itself lent itself to that feeling of openness and allowed spatial reflection. I also liked the fact that although I had a large space to work in, I couldn’t hang things on the walls so there were restrictions and constraints which also sparked my work to move off in different directions.
DC: What are your next steps on this journey?
ST: I have a joint exhibition at the beginning of June in the PZ Gallery in Penzance and during my new academic year at GSA I have been accepted on a 12 week exchange programme to MassArts in Boston, USA which hopefully will start in January next year.